, Volume 17, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 43-51
Date: 16 May 2008

Climate and agriculture in the ancient Near East: a synthesis of the archaeobotanical and stable carbon isotope evidence

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Distribution maps of crop plants in Early to Middle Bronze Age northern Mesopotamia and the Levant show distinct changes with regard to relative plant presence in samples, proportions of various crops found and frequencies in the total number of finds, which may be interpreted as changes in agro-production reflecting human adaptation to increasing aridity from climate change after 4200 b.p. The hypothesis of a causal relationship between correlated proxy palaeoclimate and archaeobotanical data is tested with the independent evidence from stable carbon isotope analysis in plant remains. Ancient plant remains show that Δ13C is decreased for Middle Bronze Age objects, which coincides chronologically with a broad pattern of drier climate inferred from several palaeoclimate proxy records. The hypothesis of a causal relation between climate change and farming is valid, thus archaeobotanical data are suitable for investigating past relations between climate change and agro-production on a broader scale.

Communicated by G. Willcox.